The Justice Ministry said Tuesday that on Oct. 2 it approved the first three of more than 200 applications it has received so far. The other applications are still being processed following a law that began in March.
Seeking to make amends for past wrongdoing, both Portugal and Spain adopted laws this year allowing citizenship for descendants of Sephardic Jews — the term commonly used for those who once lived in the Iberian peninsula — persecuted during the Inquisition.
Alfonso Paredes Henriquez, a Panama-based real estate developer, said he and his brother were among Portugal’s successful applicants. They are entitled to a passport and the right to work and live in the 28-nation European Union.
Paredes Henriquez said he initially intended to request Spanish citizenship but switched to Portugal after Spain’s delays in enacting its law, which was finally approved in June.
The Jewish Community of Oporto in northern Portugal, which is one of the organizations vetting applications, said Paredes Henriquez is a descendant of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. His ancestors were Rabbi Eliau Abraham Lopez, the great Sephardic rabbi of the Spanish-Portuguese community in Curacao and of Spanish origin, and his wife Rachel Nunes da Fonseca, of Portuguese origin.
The Community said Tuesday it has issued certificates for Jews from 23 countries, with two-thirds of them for Sephardic Jews from Turkey.
Ministry of Justice
Decree-law n. º 30 – A/2015
Sephardic Jews are hereby designated as Jews who descend from the ancient and traditional Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula.
The presence of those communities in the Iberian Peninsula is very old, even preceding the formation of the Christian Iberian kingdoms, as it happened with Portugal from the 12th century onwards.
From the end of the 15th century, and after the Alhambra Decree (1492), having those Jewish communities been subject to persecution from the Spanish Inquisition, many of their members then took refuge in Portugal.
However, King Manuel I of Portugal, who had initially enacted a law that would guarantee their protection, determined that, starting in 1496, all Sephardic Jews (also known as marranos) who would not subjected themselves to Catholic baptism would be expelled. Therefore, a number of Sephardic Jews were expelled from Portugal by late 15th century – early 16th century.
Generally, these peninsular Jews established themselves, with others, in countries like the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey, as well as in regions in North Africa and, later, in American territories, namely Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the United States of America (USA).
Despite the persecutions and the departure from their ancestral territory, many Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin and their descendants retained not only the Portuguese language, but also the traditional rites of the ancient Jewish cult in Portugal, conserving for generations their family names, objects and documents that comproved their Portuguese origins, paired with a strong memorial relationship that leads them to call themselves “Portuguese Jews” or “Jews from the Portuguese nation”.
With the “conversão em pé” (standing conversion), the name by which was known the forced conversion of Jews commanded by King Manuel, Jews officially stopped existing in Portugal, remaining only Old Christians and New Christians, the latter designation hiding the Jewish origins.
During the Inquisition Period, many of these New Christians and Portuguese Jews managed to escape and leave the Kingdom, for some regions of the Mediterranean (Gibraltar, Morocco, Southern France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria), Northern Europe (London, Nantes, Paris, Antwerp, Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam), Brazil, the Antilles and the USA, among others, creating there highly renowned communities and founding notable synagogues, such as the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, the Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, the Touro Synagogue in Newport (Rhode Island – USA), the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal and the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue in Recife, Brazil.
In the beginning of the 19th century, some descendants of Sephardic Jews, who had taken refuge in Morocco and Gibraltar, returned to Portugal, the first modern Jewish cemetery having been created in 1801, next to the British cemetery in Lisbon. In 1868, by a charter from King Luís I, it was granted to “the Jews of Lisbon the permission to install a cemetery for the burial of their coreligionists”, the cemetery in Rua D. Afonso III, in Lisbon.
Even today, many Sephardic Jewish family names keep the Portuguese matrix, although, in some cases, it got mixed with the Spanish one.
In the Diaspora of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, there subsist, between others, family names such as: Abrantes, Aguilar, Andrade, Brandão, Brito, Bueno, Cardoso, Carvalho, Castro, Costa, Coutinho, Dourado, Fonseca, Furtado, Gomes, Gouveia, Granjo, Henriques, Lara, Marques, Melo e Prado, Mesquita, Mendes, Neto, Nunes, Pereira, Pinheiro, Rodrigues, Rosa, Sarmento, Silva, Soares, Teixeira and Teles.
In the Diaspora of Latin America, there are kept, for example, among others, the following family names: Almeida, Avelar, Bravo, Carvajal, Crespo, Duarte, Ferreira, Franco, Gato, Gonçalves, Guerreiro, Leão, Lopes, Leiria, Lobo, Lousada, Machorro, Martins, Montesino, Moreno, Mota, Macias, Miranda, Oliveira, Osório, Pardo, Pina, Pinto, Pimentel, Pizarro, Querido, Rei, Ribeiro, Salvador, Torres and Viana.
In other regions of the world, there are also descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origins that maintain, besides the aforementioned names, among others, the following family names: Amorim, Azevedo, Álvares, Barros, Basto, Belmonte, Cáceres, Caetano, Campos, Carneiro, Cruz, Dias, Duarte, Elias, Estrela, Gaiola, Josué, Lemos, Lombroso, Lopes, Machado, Mascarenhas, Mattos, Meira, Mello e Canto, Mendes da Costa, Miranda, Morão, Morões, Mota, Moucada, Negro, Oliveira, Osório (ou Ozório), Paiva, Pilão, Pinto, Pessoa, Preto, Souza, Vaz and Vargas.
Besides the family names and the usage of the Portuguese language, namely in rites, even today, there are descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews that speak among each other the Ladino, a language used by the Sephardics expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century, derived from Spanish and Portuguese, and currently spoken by around 150,000 people in communities in Israel, Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Morocco and in America, among many other places.
The following Act will allow the descendants of Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin who desire so, to claim their right to return, by acquiring Portuguese nationality by naturalization, and their integration in the national community being granted, with its co-relative rights and obligations.
The Lisbon Israeli Community, the Porto Israeli Community, the Superior Council of the Judiciary, the High Council of the Administrative and Fiscal Courts, the Superior Council for the Public Prosecution, the Bar Association, the Notary Public Association, the Chamber of Solicitors, the Union of Registrars, and the Council of Justice Officials were heard on an optional basis.
The Jewish Community of Belmonte, the Union of Portuguese Judges, the Union of the Public Prosecutors, the Union of the Registry and Notary Officers, the Union of the Registry and Notary Workers of the Northern Region, the Union of the Registry and Notary Workers of the Southern Region and the Islands, the Union of the Judicial Workers, the Union of the Justice Officials, and the Association of the Judicial Officers were heard on an optional basis.
In accordance with Article 2 of Law No. 2013/01 of 29 July 2013, and under the terms of Article 198 (1) (a) of the Constitution, the Government enacts as follows:
This Act undertakes to the second change to the Regulation of Portuguese Nationality, approved by Decree-law No. 237-A/2006 of 14 December, modified by Decree-law No. 43/2013 of 1 April, providing for the concession of Portuguese citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews.
Amendment to the Regulation of Portuguese Nationality
The following paragraph is added to the Regulation of Portuguese Nationality, approved by Decree Law No. 237-A/2006 of 14 December, altered by Decree Law 43/2013 of 1 April, the Article 24-A:
Naturalization of foreigners that descend from Portuguese Sephardic Jews
- The Portuguese Government may concede Portuguese nationality, by naturalization, to the descendants of Sephardic Jews, when the following criteria are met::
a. Being of majority age or emancipated, under Portuguese law;
b. Having not been convicted, with a sentence transited in rem judicatum, for a crime liable to a prison sentence of three years or more, in accordance with Portuguese
- In the application presented by the interested party, the circumstances determining the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin shall be indicated and demonstrated, namely, family names, native language, direct ancestry or family relationship in a collateral line of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese
- The application shall be accompanied by the following documents, notwithstanding the obligations arising from article 37:
a. Birth certificate;
b. Certificate of criminal record issued by the competent authority in the country of the nationality of the applicant or of the country in which the applicant has resided, which must be authenticated, when issued by foreign authorities.
c. Certificate from a Jewish community with collective religious person status, under Portuguese Law, at the date of entry into force of this Article, that certifies the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, materialised, namely, in the family name of the applicant, native language, ancestry, and family
- The certificate referred to in line c) of the previous paragraph must contain the full name, date of birth, country of birth, parentage, nationality, and residence of the applicant, as mention of direct ancestry or family relationship in a collateral line of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, accompanied by every evidence of such.
- In the absence of the certificate mentioned in 3(c), and, in order to demonstrate direct ancestry or family relationship in a collateral line of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese origin or tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, the following means of evidence are admitted:
a. Certified document, issued by the Jewish community that ther applicant belongs to, proving their usage of Portuguese expressions in Jewish rites, or as a language spoken by them in the heart of that community, the Ladino;
b. Certified records, such as registers from synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, as well as residence permits, property titles, deeds of will, and other pieces of evidence of family connection from the applicant, through direct ancestry or family relationship in a collateral line of a common parent from the Sephardic community of Portuguese
- In case of doubt over the authenticity of the contents of the documents issued abroad, the member of the Government responsible for Justice may request the Jewish community referred under line 3(c), a report over the evidence produced under the preceding ”
Entry into force
This Act shall enter into force on the first day after the date of its publishing. Reviewed and approved in Council of Ministers on 29 January 2015.
Passed on 25 February 2015
Sanctioned on 26 February 2015
The Prime Minister
The Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Minister of Internal Administration
The Minister of Justice
New law granting descendants of Jews forced into exile the right to citizenship passes three months ago.
Three months after Portugal passed a law granting descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago the right to citizenship, 250 applicants – most from Turkey – have already received official certification that they qualify.
This certification establishes that the applicants have provided sufficient proof of their connection to the Sephardic Portuguese community that existed before the 16th century Inquisition. The Portuguese government has delegated the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto with responsibility for vetting certification requests.
According to Portuguese Jewish leaders, 200 certificates have thus far been issued by the Porto community and another 50 by Lisbon. The law took effect in March. Last week, Spain passed a similar law, which will take effect in October. Once candidates receive certification, they are requested to produce documents required of any other candidates applying for citizenship in Portugal. But Jews of Portuguese descent, unlike others applying for Portuguese citizenship, are not required to relocate to the country. Their citizenship applications also go through an expedited process, and rather than wait the usual six-seven years, they will be notified within six months to a year if they have been approved.
Michael Rothwell, a spokesman for the Jewish community of Porto, said 900 applications had been received by their offices in the past three months, and 200 certificates had already been issued, among them 150 to Jews from Turkey. Another 15 certificates had been issued to Israeli Jews, and an identical number to American Jews. The rest, he said, were split among applicants from 15 different countries.
“For many of them, it is a desire to formalize the emotional connection to Portugal they’ve kept in their families for many centuries,” said Rothwell, explaining why these Jews were applying for Portuguese citizenship. “Others, particularly those in Turkey, are thinking about coming to live in Portugal.”
Jose Carp, president of the Jewish community of Lisbon, told Haaretz that he has already received 500 inquiries by mail and by phone from prospective applicants. Of the total number of certificates authorized by the Jewish community of Lisbon, 24 were issued to Israelis, 12 to Brazilians, five to Moroccans, three to Americans, three to Turks, and one each to a Russian, British and South African descendant of Portuguese Jews.
He said that 10 percent of the applications for certification had not yet been approved because important documents were missing.
“The people who have made inquiries have absolutely not been thinking about relocating,” said Carp. “The reason they are doing it is that they would like to have a European Sephardic identity. They’re very proud of it, and this provides a piece of proof that they can transmit to their descendants.”
The Jewish community of Lisbon, he said, is providing certification not only to halakhic Jews but also to descendants of the Sephardic community forced to convert to Christianity (also known as conversos). The Jewish community of Porto, on the other hand, is only providing certification to those who meet the halakhic requirements.